"Light can illuminate truth, let us see things we might otherwise unknowingly pass by in the dark. It can also illuminate the signs that will allow ea "Light can illuminate truth, let us see things we might otherwise unknowingly pass by in the dark. It can also illuminate the signs that will allow each of us to find the road to forgiveness, to trust, to hope, to belief and to the future."
An engaging story of secrets and lies, of trust and betrayal, of family, friendship and forgiveness, Season of Shadow and Light is Jenn J McLeod's third novel of contemporary fiction set in rural New South Wales.
Unhappy and frustrated after a difficult few years, Paige Turner decides to take her six year old daughter, Matilda, and mother, Alice, and spend two weeks in country New South Wales. Their destination, Saddleton, is determined by signage visible in an old photograph of Paige's mother in her youth, but rising floodwater results in the trio becoming stranded in the tiny town of Coolabah Tree Gully. Though Paige is content to enjoy the hospitality of the generous locals who offer the family a place to stay, Alice is increasingly anxious. Coolabah Tree Gully is home to a secret Alice has kept for decades and, should it come to light, has the potential to destroy everything she holds dear.
The story of Season of Shadow and Light unfolds primarily from the perspectives of Paige and Alice, two richly drawn, complex characters confronted with a legacy of secrets.
Paige has had an extraordinarily difficult time recently. A late term miscarriage was followed by a postpartum stroke, leaving her with physical deficits and destroying her career as a food critic. Learning of her husband's infidelity pushes Paige to the breaking point, motivating her to escape to the country with her daughter and Alice. Paige choose Saddleton as a destination with the vague notion of tracing the origins of a photo of her mother, Nancy, unwittingly ending up in the town her mother fled in the dead of night almost forty years earlier. Paige of course has no idea about her mother's past, but nevertheless feels incomplete.
"I lost the things that made me who I am, the things that made me feel complete as a person. You know that jigsaw puzzle Mati has - the one with the missing pieces we searched high and low for that day? That puzzle is me. There are pieces missing, and I don't mean my sense of smell and taste. The fact I can't explain what I feel frustrates the hell out of me.'"
Alice has been Paige's sole parent since the death of Nancy, her partner and lover, when Paige was ten. Aware of Nancy's hidden past, Alice had promised never to reveal the truth of it to Paige, but stranded in Coolabah Tree Gully it becomes harder for her to determine exactly who she is protecting, especially when she is confronted with the consequences of keeping it to herself. Alice really struggles with the thought of not only betraying Nancy, but being held accountable by Paige.
"An improbable set of circumstances. An impossible situation. How long could she hold on to the truth? Should she hold on?....Was she obligated to protect the deceptions of the dead when the truth might somehow help the living?"
A low key element of romance is introduced by Aiden, a local man recently returned from Sydney, 'cheffing' in the local pub, his own future in tatters after being betrayed by his ex-girlfriend. He is attracted to Paige, who appreciates the attention given the state of her shaky marriage, and eventually proves to be a link between Paige and her mother's secret but to be honest I thought Aiden's point of view, shared in brief chapters throughout the novel, wasn't really necessary.
Through her characters McLeod explores issues such as miscarriage, stroke recovery, infidelity, identity, same sex partnerships, and organ transplantation. The larger themes of the novel examine the nature of loyalty, trust, deception and betrayal. Suspense stems from the nature of the secret that Alice is keeping and the anticipation of Paige learning it. McLeod skillfully teases out the details of Nancy's hidden past but I did feel there were times when the narrative stalled briefly, repeating Alice's angst and Aiden's upset a little too often.
“Love is about connection.” says Alice, and Season of Shadow and Light is a story about connections - between partners and lovers, between parents and their children, and between siblings - tested, sometimes frayed and weakened, but strengthened by forgiveness, trust and love.
Cold Burn of Magic is the first book in a new series by Jennifer Estep, author of Mythos Academy and the Elemental Assassin series.
The world building Cold Burn of Magic is the first book in a new series by Jennifer Estep, author of Mythos Academy and the Elemental Assassin series.
The world building is interesting. Cloudburst Falls is a small town in West Virginia with the reputation of being 'the most magical place in America', drawing plenty of curious tourists eager to experience the fun. But there is a dark underbelly to the town that is divided among four wealthy magical 'Families' who are constantly vying for territory and power.
Lila Merriweather has existed on the fringes of the town, avoiding the conflict between the Families, since her mother was murdered by the head of the Draconis. Using her wits and Talent she makes her living as a thief (while still attending high school), but an impulsive decision to help defend a group of teens under attack results in her being recruited as a bodyguard to the Sinclair Family heir apparent, Devon.
There is a hint of romance in Cold Burn of Magic, with sparks flaring between Lila and Devon, but the focus of the story is on the developing political intrigue with the brewing war between the Families. There is plenty of action as assassins make repeated attempts on Devon's life and Lila is forced to defend him, hand to hand combat and sword fights are made more interesting by the dueling of magical abilities and the occasional interference of monsters.
I thought Cold Burn of Magic was an entertaining urban fantasy novel, even though it's aimed at a young adult audience. The second book of the 'Black Blade' series, Dark Heart of Magic, is due for release in October....more
Though Hush Hush is the 12th mystery to feature journalist turned private investigator Tess Monaghan it can easily be read as a stand alone given its Though Hush Hush is the 12th mystery to feature journalist turned private investigator Tess Monaghan it can easily be read as a stand alone given its encapsulated story line.
In Hush Hush, Tess and her new partner, retired Baltimore P.D. homicide detective Sandy Sanchez, are hired to assess the security needs of Melisandre Harris Dawes, a woman who ten years previously had been charged with the wilful murder of her infant daughter. Having returned to Baltimore with an ambitious documentary maker in tow, Melisandre claims she wants to tell her side of the story and reunite with her estranged teenage daughters, Alanna and Ruby, but a series of sinister notes threaten both the project and the reunion.
The past and the present are on a collision course in this tale of madness, betrayal and murder.
Melisandre is manipulative and demanding and Tess suspects she is not being completely honest with her uncle, Melisandre's lawyer, Tyner Grey. Despite being found not guilty in the death of her child, due to postpartum psychosis, questions remain about Melisandre's past and the true motivation behind her current actions. Melisandre's surviving daughters, now teenagers, are conflicted about their mother's attempts to reach out to them, especially as their father is reluctant to allow contact, for both the obvious reasons and to keep his own secrets.
Lippman extends the story beyond the crime exploring the effects of Melisandre's actions on both her family and the wider community. She also examines the experience of motherhood and the ways in which women can struggle with it.
Events in Tess's personal life adds another layer of interest to the story. Tess is still adjusting to juggling motherhood with her career, and nurturing her relationship with Crow. She, like Melisandre, is also being taunted by a series of anonymous notes that grow increasingly threatening.
Hush Hush is a solid story of suspense with interesting characters, and though there is very little action, the pace is brisk with events taking place over a period of about two weeks. It is an easy and enjoyable read....more
A sweeping saga of romance, friendship, family and war, Gallipoli Street is Mary-Anne O'Connor's debut novel.
Its 1913 and the declaration of war is a A sweeping saga of romance, friendship, family and war, Gallipoli Street is Mary-Anne O'Connor's debut novel.
Its 1913 and the declaration of war is about to shatter the rural idyll of Beecroft, home to the close knit O'Shay, Murphy and Dwyer families, who will discover their fates are intertwined by tragedy and love.
The romance of Gallipoli Street begins with the passionate love story between childhood friends, Veronica O'Shay and Jack Murphy. It is an epic tale that sees the couple overcome a scheming femme fatale, the perils of their service in the Great War, and Jack's struggle to reconcile his experiences on his return home. Twenty years later their son finds love in a New Guinea field hospital ward with orphaned nurse Theresa, but their relationship is shattered when shocking secrets from her past are exposed.
The story takes us from the trenches of Gallipoli, to the deserts of Egypt, from the muddy battlefield of The Somme, to the dense jungle of the Kokoda Trail. No matter the period or arena, war proves to be a universally horrifying and heartbreaking experience which the author relates with truth and compassion.
An appealing and poignant tale, O'Connor has drawn inspiration for both the story of Gallipoli Street and its characters from the lives of her maternal grandparents lending it authenticity and heart....more
Teagan Bliss is devastated when her father gambles away the family prope The Falls is Cathryn Hein's sixth novel, loosely linked to Rocking Horse Hill.
Teagan Bliss is devastated when her father gambles away the family property, Pinehaven, and with it her future hopes and dreams. Betrayed and heartbroken, she seeks sanctuary at the home of her Aunt Vanessa in the Falls Valley, at the foot of the Blue Mountains. It takes time but slowly the idyllic surrounds of Falls Farm, the loving concern of her aunt, a new job, and the attentions of local farrier, Lucas Knight, encourage Teagan to see beyond what she has lost, but how can she trust in the vision of a new future, when she can't trust in herself?
Teagan is not an easy character, though she engenders sympathy for the losses she has endured, her spiraling depression means she is closed off, prickly, and with her self esteem at rock bottom, always expecting the worst. Hein ably explores Teagan's experience as she tries to fight off the 'blackness' that threatens to overtake her.
The romance between Teagan and Lucas is fairly low key given Teagan's fragile emotional state. Though their attraction is mutual, Teagan is unable to believe Lucas could be interested in her and it takes Lucas a while to convince her otherwise. I liked Lucas, he proves to be kind and responsible, though perhaps a little naive in dealing with Teagan's depression.
The chemistry between Vanessa and Domenic add interest to the plot along with Vanessa's reservations about Domenic's motives, and Domenic's relationship with Lucas. So to does the complicated relationship between local vet, Bunny, and Duncan.
As always, Hein supports her protagonists with a community of colourful people and animals, from local busybody Colin, to Merlin the ram, and Falls Valley is vividly depicted from the rolling rural landscape to the main street of town. While cricket unites the Valley, plans for the expansion of a nearby exclusive 'wellness' center threatens to tear it apart and the tension affects Teagan who gets caught in the middle.
A little more ambitious in scope than her previous novels, The Falls is an engaging contemporary story about family, love, romance, belonging and healing, blending heartfelt romance with impassioned drama in rural Australia....more
Confessions of a Once Fashionable Mum by Georgia Madden is an entertaining, lighthearted tale about modern motherhood, marriage and fashion.
"I would b Confessions of a Once Fashionable Mum by Georgia Madden is an entertaining, lighthearted tale about modern motherhood, marriage and fashion.
"I would be the type of yummy mummy real mothers could relate to, and had even coined the perfect hashtag for my instagram feed - #FashMum."
Being a SAHM is not quite working out the way Ally Bloom hoped. She adores her baby daughter but she has no interest in sitting cross-legged in a dirty school hall singing The Wiggles greatest hits with the 'Happy Mummies' and their snotty-nosed offspring. Now that her mother-in-law has come to stay it seems the perfect time to cut her maternity leave short and return to work as a PR executive for the prestigious fashion label Moda, but when Ally learns she has been replaced by a 22-year-old bimbo, she resigns and develops a master plan to become the perfect mother.
"3. Embrace inner earth mama: Weave, bake, plant fragrant herb path or veggie patch, and insta everything as I go along. Use tag #soblessed at least once per day."
Armed with Nigella Lawson's How To be a Domestic Goddess, a new wardrobe of cardigans and flats, and her master plan, Ally makes a sincere attempt to get it together and impress her husband, Matt, mother-in-law Judy and the mummy mafia. Her failures are amusing as Madden underscores the competitive edge of motherhood and the pressure of aiming for social media perfection.
"Safe to say, it was, quite possibly, the worst coffee morning in the history of coffee mornings. To top it all off, not one single moment of it had been worthy of my Instagram feed."
While Ally struggles to adjust to life as a permanent SAHM, she is also struggling with the changes parenthood has wrought in her marriage to Matt and Madden identifies the distance that can sometimes creep between couples with the shift in lifestyle and priorities. Cameron (aka #HotDaddy) provides a distraction for Ally who is flattered by his flirtation.
Madden pokes gentle fun at the members of 'Happy Mummies' who are reluctant to admit their lives before children had any value and whose toddlers have Mandarin tutors, wear only natural fibers and eat only organic, gluten free homemade foods. These women are alien to Ally who is quick to dismiss them as 'saddo losers' but slowly she discovers she has more in common with them than she thought, and when the group is threatened with closure, Ally is determine to save the day.
"Look, you might think Happy Mummies is just a bunch of mums singing stupid songs and making a mess of your school hall floor every Tuesday morning, but it's so much more than that...These women, the friendships you make, they have the power to save you, to keep you afloat, at a time in your life when you're not even sure how you are going to make it through the next day. I know because they saved me."
There is plenty of humour in this sharply amusing, well paced novel. Wry observation is teamed with snappy dialogue and sarcasm, the characters and scenes may be exaggerated for effect but include a kernel of truth and familiarity for any modern day mother.
Essentially a prequel to the eleven book series from bestselling author Arnaldur Indriðason, Reykjavik Nights features detective, Inspector Erlendur a Essentially a prequel to the eleven book series from bestselling author Arnaldur Indriðason, Reykjavik Nights features detective, Inspector Erlendur as a rookie officer on the streets of the Iceland's capital.
It is the mid 1970's and Erlendur is a new beat officer, patrolling the darkened streets of Reykjavik. He responds to traffic accidents, drunken brawls, thefts and domestic violence incidents but it is the fate of the missing that intrigues him, reminding him of lost brother.
"This fixation of his with disappearances - with the phenomenon itself, the fates of those who were never heard of again and the sufferings of those left behind to mourn. He knew his obsession had its roots in the tragedy he himself had endured on the moors out east, and that it had been intensified by all the books he had read on disappearances or terrible ordeals in this harsh land."
The novel begins with three young boys discovering the body of an alcoholic vagrant known as Hannibal, who death is quickly dismissed as drowning via misadventure. A year later the case continues to haunt Erlendur in part because he had struck up an acquaintance with the tramp but his interest is rekindled when he discovers a tenuous link between Hannibal's murder and the disappearance of a local woman around the same time. The plot meanders a little as Erlendur, on his own time and with few resources, follows his hunch, but I enjoyed moving through the streets with him as he worked to develop connections and answer the questions he is unable to let go of while also going about his usual police duties.
" As he thought about Hannibal he reflected that people could just as easily lose themselves on Reykjavik's busy street as on remote mountain paths in winter storms."
Indriðason paints a vivid portrait of Reykjavik and its culture during the 1970's, a city yet to experience the economic boom that revitalised the capital, and began to attract tourists. Erlendur spends a lot of time walking around the Reykjavik streets, and those familiar with the capital should be able to trace his path.
"His thoughts shifted to the Reykjavik nights, so strangely sunny and bright, yet in another sense so dark and desperate. Night after night he and his fellow officers patrolled the city in the lumbering police van, witnessing human dramas that were hidden from others. Some the night provoked and seduced; others it wounded and terrified."
For readers unfamiliar with the Inspector Erlendur series, Reykjavik Nights is a great place to start, while fans should enjoy learning more about the hero they have grown to know and love. I enjoyed the novel and I'm interested in reading more.
Season of Salt and Honey is a bittersweet story of grief, love, family and food from forkandfiction.com blogger and author, Hannah Tunnicliffe.
Overwhe Season of Salt and Honey is a bittersweet story of grief, love, family and food from forkandfiction.com blogger and author, Hannah Tunnicliffe.
Overwhelmed by grief after the death of her fiance, Francesca Caputo flees the sympathies of her well meaning family, seeking refuge in an abandoned cabin owned by Alex's parents in a forested area of Washington. All Frankie wants is time alone to mourn the loss of forever, but her solitude is repeatedly interrupted, forcing her to reassess everything she thought she knew about her relationship, her family and herself.
"We were high-school sweethearts, just like everyone dreams about but no one actually has, because that kind of thing only happens in the movies. I knew right in my bones just how lucky I was. I knew everything was perfect, and did all the right things to keep it that way. Until now."
Frankie's grief at the loss of Alex is raw and biting, I felt for her and could understand her wish to be alone. She is craving peace and quiet, and the time to wallow in her happiest memories, but eventually Frankie is forced to confront some painful truths about her relationship with Alex when an offhand comment shakes her to the core.
"A loss that had started long before the ocean took him for good."
Despite her desire for solitude, Frankie is befriended by caretaker, Jack, and his impish daughter, Huia, as well as the generous spirited Merriem, who all provide unexpected comfort as Frankie struggles to comes to terms with the changes Alex's death has wrought. I liked these charming, enigmatic characters who offer kindness without expectation.
Frankie's family is delightful, stereotypically Italian there is no escaping their loving, if somewhat suffocating, concern. While her Papa is a solid, comforting presence, Frankie's aunts, Zia Rosa and Zia Connie, fuss and worry, cousin Vinnie makes mischief, and her estranged sister, Isabella, camps on her doorstep, reminding her of things she would rather forget.
Frankie's family equates food with love, and Season of Salt and Honey includes the recipes for a handful of Italian dishes served and shared within its pages, including Pitta Mpigliata (Sweetbread rosettes with fruit and nuts); Lingua de Suocera (Marmalade filled pastries); Spring Risotto; and Pasta alla Norma (Pasta with eggplant, tomato and salted ricotta).
"The smells of the forest — the damp dark of the soil, the bleeding sap of the trees, the lemony cedar smell — all vanish in the company of the Sicilian food: the pungent garlic in Zio Mario’s salami, the vinegar pickling the vegetables, olives bobbing in brine, roasted peppers, the ubiquitous, sunshine-coloured olive oil."
With lovely writing and a measured, almost lyrical, tempo, Season of Salt and Honey is a poignant novel embracing both the sourness and sweetness of life....more
The Liar is Nora Roberts latest novel of romantic suspense.
When her husband is declared missing at sea, Shelby Pomeroy Foxworth is stunned to discove The Liar is Nora Roberts latest novel of romantic suspense.
When her husband is declared missing at sea, Shelby Pomeroy Foxworth is stunned to discover that she has been living a lie. Richard was not the successful businessman she believed him to be but instead a thief and a swindler who has left her millions of dollars in debt. With a young daughter to provide for, Shelby seeks the comfort of her family in Tennessee, determined to rebuild a future on her own terms. But escaping Richard's legacy of lies will not be so simple.
With any other author, I would likely be unforgiving of the weaknesses in the plot of this novel. The storyline is predictable, the facts are unrealistic (for example Richard would not have been declared dead after a few months), and the suspense is weak until the last few pages. The thing is while I'm in the midst of reading I just don't care, because I find Roberts to be such a convincing storyteller.
Part of that is the way in which Roberts sucks me in is by developing characters I quickly learn to care about. Shelby, newly widowed and rocked by Richard's betrayal, is immediately sympathetic and her strength in dealing with the aftermath is admirable. Callie, Shelby's daughter, is delightful and I found the dynamics of Shelby's close knit southern family particularly appealing. Griffin is an attractive romantic lead - kind, sure and strong.
Despite being over 500 pages in length, The Liar is a quick read and regardless of its flaws, largely satisfying....more
Told from the first person perspectives of Mel and Matt, Love at First Flight is an unconventional love story which explores the motives for an illici Told from the first person perspectives of Mel and Matt, Love at First Flight is an unconventional love story which explores the motives for an illicit affair, and the damage left in its wake.
When Mel meets Matt during an interstate flight they recognise each other as soul mates. The problem is Mel is a married mother of two who lives in Perth, and Matt, who lives in Melbourne, is engaged to be married. Despite saying goodbye at the airport, they are both unable to forget their brief time together, and embark on a passionate affair that threatens to destroy them both.
Relationships are complicated things and Woods intelligently and compassionately explores the evolution of Matt and Mel's affair from their first meeting, through their consuming affair, and to the messy, bitter end. It's an emotional journey that draws the reader in with complex characterisation and a compelling narrative.
I was surprised to find I could relate to Mel in some ways, I found it difficult to blame her for reveling in the attention Matt gave her during the flight, but she definitely crossed the line for me when she chose to meet with him later. Her spiral into obsession was unsettling but I believed in it, as I did in her growing self awareness.
I particularly admired the way Mel eventually took responsibility for her failings with her husband. Mel's shame and guilt, and Adam's hurt and anger, in the aftermath is visceral. I've witnessed a similar situation among friends and feel that Woods portrayal of their struggle towards forgiveness and redemption is very well drawn.
Woods convinced me of the overwhelming chemistry between Mel and Matt, no mean feat considering I'm not sure I really believe in the idea of love at first sight. I wasn't a fan of Matt, despite his sympathetic background he struck me as a weak man, but I thought he was a well rounded character.
Love at First Flight is a surprisingly thought provoking story about love, marriage, intimacy and honesty. An impressive debut from a new Australian author.
A moving story exposing a family's struggle when patriarch Joe O'Brien, a police officer in his mid forties, is diagnosed with Huntington's Disease, aA moving story exposing a family's struggle when patriarch Joe O'Brien, a police officer in his mid forties, is diagnosed with Huntington's Disease, an incurable and untreatable condition , and his four children must decide if they will be tested and face their fate.
Emotive, thought provoking and affecting, Lisa Genova has written a novel that raises awareness about Huntington's but also celebrates family, love and life....more
"Genius recipes surprise us and make us rethink the way we cook. They might involve an unexpectedly simple technique, debunk a kitchen myth, or apply "Genius recipes surprise us and make us rethink the way we cook. They might involve an unexpectedly simple technique, debunk a kitchen myth, or apply a familiar ingredient in a new way. They’re handed down by luminaries of the food world and become their legacies. And, once we’ve folded them into our repertoires, they make us feel pretty genius too."
Food52 Genius Recipes: 100 Recipes That Will Change the Way You Cook is written by Food52.com’s executive editor Kristen Miglore. Each of the featured recipes is of "Genius" stature, meaning they are first created by professional cooks and bakers, then submitted to Food52.com, a popular website which launched in 2009, by community members with their recommendation.
I was curious about the recipes included in this cookbook, and their claims of genius. I enjoy cooking but I'm all about keeping it simple - in both method and taste.
Honestly, the only recipes I will likely try from this collection are Gabrielle Hamilton's Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, which recommends slathering the outside of the bread in mayonnaise, instead of butter, before grilling them in a non stick frying pan; the Tomato Sauce with butter and onion which makes a simple but tasty sounding pasta sauce; and Cheater Soft Serve Ice-cream.
However, more adventurous foodies should enjoy the range of recipes, many which are suitable for vegetarians, and should appeal to both enthusiastic beginner and intermediate home cooks.
Breakfasts like Poached Scrambled Eggs and Chocolate Muscovado Banana Cake sound good. Mains range from Shrimp Grits to Sticky Balsamic Ribs, Cauliflower Steaks to Kale Panini, plus there are recipes for salads, soups and sides. Desserts include Nigella Lawson's Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake and an interesting technique to create Caramelized White Chocolate.
While Food52.com has a regular 'Genius' column, it's important to note that the author claims more than half of the recipes in this cookbook have never been published in the column before, so fans should still find something new to interest them.
A sweet tale about love, friendship, family and chocolate, The Chocolate Promise is Josephine Moon's second novel.
Christmas Livingstone is doing what A sweet tale about love, friendship, family and chocolate, The Chocolate Promise is Josephine Moon's second novel.
Christmas Livingstone is doing what she loves, making and selling gourmet chocolate treats in her very own store, The Chocolate Apothecary, and spreading joy, helping those in need in her community. She has ten simple rules for happiness, all of which have helped her rebuild her life after fleeing heartbreak three years previously and she is determined to stick with them, even when Lincoln van Luc, a botanist, wanders into her shop and threatens the most important rule of all... 'Absolutely no romantic relationships'.
"The rules, she reminded herself. The rules were there for her protection. The rules had served her well and kept her steady for the past three years. Now was not the time to abandon the rules."
Christmas is happy with the life she has made for herself and the plans she has for the future but the rules that have allowed her to rebuild her life begin to chafe when first wins a place on a week-long course with a world-renowned French chocolatier, and then she meets Lincoln. Christmas (a ridiculous name btw) is creative, intelligent and kind but she is also emotionally closed off due to a dysfunctional childhood and a recent trauma. Moon gently guides her character into dealing with her past and opening up her heart as the story unfolds.
The romantic relationship between Christmas and Lincoln is complicated by Christmas's 'rules' and Lincoln's wunderlust. Lincoln, a botanist, has spent most of his life traveling the world and doesn't plan to stay in Tasmania long. He has returned to help his Nan, a wonderful character, and work on his book, but falling in love with Christmas forces him to reassess his future.
I delighted in the settings, a small town in Tasmania with 'period' tourist appeal, the Chocolate Apothecary sounds like a pretty store and I could easily imagine the tempting treats gracing the shelves and the rich smell of molten chocolate. Francophiles will enjoy Christmas's sojourn in France touring the countryside exploring lavender farms in Provence, and whipping up treats like a champagne and vodka chocolate ganache to coat fresh rasberries in Aix.
This novel, with its appealing characters and feel good storyline, is a lovely way to treat yourself on a lazy afternoon, but be warned, you will be craving chocolate before you are through, so make sure you have your favourite on hand....more
The Nutters introduces Albert, a former policeman medically retired from the force after being stabbed by a clown, and his wife, Rose, private investi The Nutters introduces Albert, a former policeman medically retired from the force after being stabbed by a clown, and his wife, Rose, private investigators in the small English village of Little Wobble. Albert, missing the excitement of his days on the force, hoped to catch criminals but instead spends his days looking for missing garden gnomes, cats, and neighbours who aren't really missing at all. So the Nutters are eager when they are asked to investigate a case in Upper Wobble where the vicar's wife is receiving hate mail, threatening to expose her secret, sordid past, and suddenly they have almost more excitement than they can handle.
This cozy mystery offers a cast of lively characters, featuring the Nutter family which includes Albert, Rose, also an agony aunt for the village newspaper, their three almost adult children and a lazy oversize mutt.
There is more than one mystery playing out in The Nutters. The vicar's wife is being blackmailed, the publican seems to be cheating on his wife, a young woman is assaulted and another is being stalked. The mysteries are solidly plotted, and though the culprits are fairly easily guessed, I was surprised by at least one of the revelations.
Unfortunately my experience of reading The Nutters was marred by several issues with the writing. The sentence structure is often clumsy, tenses are muddled and the grammar is inconsistent. There is far too much 'tell' rather than 'show' and there are instances of repetition in the narrative.
It's a shame, because I enjoyed the humour of The Nutters and think the story is genuinely entertaining, but the editing lets it down. ...more
"At what point did this become my fate? Did I ever control it? And if I'd chosen differently, would all the good parts dissolve along with the bad? Ev "At what point did this become my fate? Did I ever control it? And if I'd chosen differently, would all the good parts dissolve along with the bad? Even if this is the end, I have no regrets. For giving into that magnetic pull we had, despite wanting different things....I didn't think it was possible to love another human more..."
Aisha and Ryan fell in love the moment they met, and were certain would make it work, despite the differences between them. Five years later, struggling with the reality of their compromises and the relentless demands of parenting their autistic spectrum son, they fight and Ryan walks away. A day later, Aisha receives a late night phone call, and promising to return in an hour or so, leaves her son, Eli, in her father's care. Three days later Aisha has still not come home, Ryan can't be reached, and while the police seem inclined to dismiss Patrick's fears, he is certain something is wrong.
From the first page the reader is aware that wherever Aisha is, she is in trouble. The tension builds as the reader wonders why she is missing, has Aisha simply had enough, snapping under the strain, or is there a more sinister reason for her absence?
"I calmly wonder is this is how it feels to die: This strange lightness, drifting in zero gravity. I feel no pain, but I have no control. I command my brain to charge my limbs, to pry open my eyes, but it's no use."
Missing You unfolds through the perspectives of Aisha, Ryan and Patrick, shifting from the present, through the past, until the two timelines merge.
Over a period of seven days, Patrick worries about his missing daughter while caring for his grandson. Eli's behaviour is a challenge for Patrick and Kaden explores the difficulties of catering to his needs.
"Seventy years I've made it, and never seen a boy like him."
Aisha and Ryan's narratives reveal their life together - their passionate romance, their feelings about marriage and parenthood, - and why the cracks had begun to appear, leading to the fight that separates them the day before Aisha goes missing. Kaden does a wonderful job of creating two interesting, well rounded characters and mapping a fairytale relationship complicated by reality.
"My life isn't perfect, Gabe. We're broke, tired, antisocial. The highlight of my week is more than four hours' consecutive sleep. But we love each other. I love my son."
Missing You held me in its thrall from the first page, and while I confess to being a little disappointed in one element of the ending, I found it to be a layered, absorbing tale of love and suspense. ...more
Jinn and Juice introduces a new paranormal romance/urban fantasy series from Nicole Peeler.
It's less than a week until Lyla will finally be free of th Jinn and Juice introduces a new paranormal romance/urban fantasy series from Nicole Peeler.
It's less than a week until Lyla will finally be free of the curse that condemned her to a thousand years of servitude when Ozan, a Magi needing her help to find a missing girl, binds her to his will. A Jinn, Lyla has little choice but to obey her new Master and can only hope he will stick to their agreement to release her when their mission is complete, but Lyla will have face to her worst nightmare before her most heartfelt wish cam be granted.
Lyla was the teenage daughter of a an ancient Persian king, desperate to avoid being married off, when she was cursed by the genie she sought help from. Now she is a Jinn and a belly dancer/burlesque performer at a Pittsburgh club, biding her time until the curse expires.
Lyla's inner circle have her back and are a fun and interesting group, including a gay Delphi Oracle, a Will-o-the-Wisp, a half troll and a psychic drag queen.
The romance between Lyla and Oz doesn't offer any real surprises but it is enjoyable. Lyla resents Oz at first and certainly doesn't trust him, but eventually comes to realise he is a genuine and honourable guy.
There is plenty of humour, some of it a little crude and obvious but fun and snarky nevertheless. The action is fast paced as Lyla hunts for her new Master's missing friend, which leads to a deadly confrontation with an age old enemy.
Set in modern day Pittsburgh, I liked the way in which Peeler uses the landscape and 'stains' the magic with steel. 'Sideways' is the magical world that overlaps our own and embraces a variety of creatures and beasties.
I enjoyed Jinn and Juice, it was a quick, escapist read for a lazy afternoon....more
After Birth is a provocative story of new motherhood.
The narrative is almost a stream of consciousness with Ari's unfiltered thoughts raging across ea After Birth is a provocative story of new motherhood.
The narrative is almost a stream of consciousness with Ari's unfiltered thoughts raging across each page. Ari is brutally honest about her experience, but abrasively so. She is angry, bitter and self pitying, however it's fair to say that she is also lost, lonely and deeply conflicted.
" Sometimes I’m with the baby and I think: you’re my heart and my soul, and I would die for you. Other times I think: tiny moron, leave me the f**k alone..."
It seems likely Ari is experiencing some level of post natal depression, exacerbated by a birth she viewed as traumatic and her difficult relationship with her deceased mother. Motherhood is undoubtedly a huge period of change and adjustment.
"There's before and there's after. To live in your body before is one thing. To live in your body after is another. Some deal by attempting to micromanage; some go crazy; some zone right the hell on out. Or all of the above. A blessed few resist any of these..."
There were parts of the novel I connected with, I have four children (three of whom were born in three years) so I can relate somewhat to Ari's experience. New motherhood can be a frustrating, exhausting, frightening and isolating period.
"Endless need. I did not understand how there could be no break. No rest. There was just no end to it. It went on and one and on. There was no end. And I couldn't relinquish him....because he was mine. There was an agony that bordered on physical when he wasn't in my arms."
However I had a hard time dredging up a lot of sustained sympathy for Ari who wallows in negativity. She is so angry, and self-righteous and entitled. I found her rants about c-sections and bottle-feeding particularly off putting.
"The baby's first birthday. Surgery day, I point out, because I have trouble calling it birth. Anniversary of the great failure."
For all of the rage in After Birth, Albert raises some important issues about the experience of modern motherhood. It can be such an isolating experience for many women, especially for those who lack the close support of family and friends and it is often difficult for new mother's to admit, and ask, for help.
"Two hundred years ago-hell, one hundred years ago- you'd have a child surrounded by other women: your mother, her mother, sisters, cousins, sisters -in-law, mother-in-law.... They'd help you, keep you company, show you how. Then you'd do the same. Not just people to share in the work of raising children, but people to share in the loving of children."
Albert also speaks about friendship, and the way women relate to each other in both positive and negative ways. Ari has few female friends, and her closest friends essentially abandon her after her son is born. She latches onto to Mina, the pregnant tenant of friends, who offers her much of the validation she craves.
We set up camp at my house or hers. We listen to music. I like the music she likes...."We say 'yes', 'exactly', 'poor thing' and 'I know', 'I know that's the whole problem' and 'really, well of course!'"
I think the rage in this novel has the potential to both ameliorate and alienate women, I rolled my eyes in derision of what it had to say as often as I nodded my head in agreement. I didn't enjoy After Birth, nor even really like it, but it is a thought provoking and powerful read....more
First published in Australia as 'Whisky, Charlie, Foxtrot' in 2012, Whiskey and Charlie is a moving and poignant novel, the story of identical twin br First published in Australia as 'Whisky, Charlie, Foxtrot' in 2012, Whiskey and Charlie is a moving and poignant novel, the story of identical twin brothers, Charlie and William (aka Whiskey) Ferns. Inseparable as children, rivals as teenagers and estranged as adults, their relationship is unresolved when William is badly injured in a freak accident. As Whiskey lies comatose, Charlie struggles to deal with all the things that remain unsaid between them.
"He must not die.He must not die because he, Charlie, needs more time....He had always thought there would be time"
The narrative shifts between present events and Charlie's memories of the past, gradually unraveling the reasons for the discord between the brothers. Each chapter is headed with a call sign from the International Phonetic Alphabet, with the designation woven cleverly into the story.
Charlie is both a sympathetic and frustrating character. Having always felt inferior to his much more outgoing and confident twin, Charlie has allowed his envy and resentment to sour many aspects of his life. It isn't until Whiskey's accident that Charlie examines his own conscience and is forced to confront the ways in which he has failed not only his brother, but himself.
"Charlie had spent all those months trying to find evidence that Whiskey was to blame for their estrangement, looking for justifications for his refusal to forgive Whiskey, excavating the last twentyfive years of their lives in order to come to some sort of definitive conclusion - which of the them was guilty, which of them was not. At last he saw the truth was somewhere between those things, that it wasn't all Whiskey's fault or all his own, that at times they had both done the right thing by each other, and at other times the wrong thing, that they'd both made mistakes and both come come good in their own ways..."
Smith's observations of the complicated relationships in her novel are astute and honest. her characters are believable, complex and vividly drawn. Emotion runs high as the characters sit vigil by Whiskey's bedside, with the author capturing the dizzying eddy of hope, grief, guilt and fear.
A heartfelt, compelling story about love, redemption and family, the last pages brought a tear to my eye. ...more
Normal by Graeme Cameron is told in the first person, by an unnamed man who lives in a lovely English farmhouse with a separate garage, drives a white Normal by Graeme Cameron is told in the first person, by an unnamed man who lives in a lovely English farmhouse with a separate garage, drives a white Transit van, and enjoys cooking.
The novel opens as our mystery man is cleaning up after the murder and dismemberment of his latest victim, and is interrupted by an unsuspecting young woman whom he abducts. With Erica safely caged in his purpose built, underground games room our protagonist goes grocery shopping.
"I know exactly when it all started to go wrong for me. It was April 5 at 19:23:17, and it started with a pair of eyes."
It is there that he meets Rachel and his life begins to unravel.
Cameron has created a rather startling antihero, a serial killer who falls in love with a checkout girl. For years he has happily stalked, kidnapped, murdered and even eaten young women, but meeting Rachel throws him off his game.
"I stared down at my feeble prey lying cock-eagled on the floor, and I felt all of the craving, all of the desperate, clawing need simply evaporate. Abruptly, everything in my head was Rachael, everything in my gust was regret and everything at my feet was a ridiculous, unfathomable error of judgement."
The question is what to do with his most recent captive, who turns out to be quite an unusual young woman, and the police detectives who are persistently curious about his house guest. The killer is clever and resourceful but slowly he begins to lose control of his carefully constructed, 'normal' life, and shockingly elicits some sympathy for his predicament.
The best surprise is in the black humour, which is often sly and offbeat. Ordinary scenes are injected with a dark twist that provoke a startled snicker.
"In Fruit & Veg I selected a peach. Small, rosy and perfectly rounded, she set my mouth watering the moment she caught my eye. Her burly, bruised companion, however, swiftly killed my appetite."
Disturbing and whimsical in equal measure, Normal has its flaws, but overall is an entertaining, provocative and sharply written novel....more
In The Road to Hope, Rachael Johns revisits the small Western Australian town of Hope Springs featured in her debut novel, Jilted.
The Road to Hope op In The Road to Hope, Rachael Johns revisits the small Western Australian town of Hope Springs featured in her debut novel, Jilted.
The Road to Hope opens at Flynn and Ellie's marriage ceremony with Lauren Simpson watching jealously from the pews. Still bitter about losing the love of her life, and tired of being fodder for the town gossips, Lauren decides it's time to start afresh, but the temptation of the locum doctor, Dr Tom Lewis, may be just too good for a bad girl to resist.
Lauren was cast as somewhat of a villain in Jilted, painted as petty and promiscuous, but Johns does an admirable job of redeeming her in The Road To Hope. We learn that Lauren's behaviour in large part stemmed from her unrequited crush on Flynn, and her promiscuity has been driven by a real desire for true love. As a nurse, Lauren proves she is also kind, capable and dedicated and it's these qualities that Johns draws out so that we find Lauren both a sympathetic and likeable heroine.
Tom Lewis is easy to like - a hot, surfing doctor traveling Australia in a vintage ute as a locum - but he has a devastating secret that complicates his life. He's attracted to Lauren, but he feels he can't consider anything more serious than a fling given his situation. Johns handles Lewis's dilemma well without minimising the reality of the situation.
I really enjoyed the chemistry and slow burn romance between Lauren and Tom. Despite their immediate sexual attraction, both have good reasons for refusing to acknowledge it. They develop a friendship which is really sweet, even with the undercurrent of heat and I was delighted by the way their relationship worked itself out.
It's not necessary to have read Jilted to read The Road to Hope but I enjoyed revisiting the town and people of Hope Springs. I read this in a matter of hours, enjoying the warmth, humour and romance of a this well written story....more
The Altogether Unexpected Disappearance of Atticus Craftsman is a quirky tale of love, friendship, family and literature.
Heir of the Craftsman & C The Altogether Unexpected Disappearance of Atticus Craftsman is a quirky tale of love, friendship, family and literature.
Heir of the Craftsman & Co publishing company, Atticus Craftsman, is sent by his father to close down their failing Spanish literary magazine. The staff of the 'Librarte', five close-knit women, are devastated and devise a plan to distract the Englishman from his mission, luring Atticus to Andalucía with the promise of an extraordinary literary find.
As Solea leads Atticus on a wild goose chase to her family home, Berta, Gabriela, Asuncion and Maria carry on, hoping to redeem the magazine. But when Marlow Craftsman realises his son is missing, and involves local police Inspector Manchego, the women are risking more than just their jobs.
Truthfully, farce is not really my thing so I didn't really enjoy The Altogether Unexpected Disappearance of Atticus Craftsman the way some readers might. I found some parts amusing and I was charmed by several of the characters including Berta, the manager of Librarte, and the bumbling Inspector Manchego, but unfortunately overall I just wasn't very interested.
Translated from her native Spanish, The Altogether Unexpected Disappearance of Atticus Craftsman is Mamen Sanchez's fifth novel.